Archive for the tag 'justice'

Source: smokershighlife/Flickr

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced Tuesday that his office will no longer prosecute first-time offenders arrested for low-level misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, suggesting it’s been a waste of resources that unfairly targets young men of color.

The DA laid out the new policy in a press release, saying that he will decline to prosecute marijuana cases where the defendent has no prior arrests or a minimal criminal record, and has given authorities a verifiable name and address. However, his office also provided a list of exceptions that may be prosecuted. The exceptions include cases where a defendant is nabbed smoking in public, is a sex offender, has an open warrant or the marijuana is found as a result of search warrant.

Here’s Thompson’s full statement:

“My office and the New York City Police Department have a shared mission to protect the public and we will continue to advance that goal. But as District Attorney, I have the additional duty to do justice, and not merely convict, and to reform and improve our criminal justice system in Brooklyn,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders. Pursuant to this policy, we will use our prosecutorial discretion to decline to prosecute, and dismiss upfront, certain low-level marijuana possession cases based on criteria concerning the particular individual and the circumstances of the case. For example, cases will be dismissed prior to arraignment for those with little or no criminal record, but we will continue to prosecute marijuana cases which most clearly raise public health and safety concerns.

“This policy does not express approval for the use of marijuana and should not be interpreted as such. The policy will not apply to those who smoke marijuana in public, or in the presence of children. It will not apply to 16 and 17-year-old offenders, who instead will be redirected on to a healthier path through a diversion program. It will not apply to those with a serious criminal history, to those who are known to act in a dangerous manner while under the influence, or to those who have a history of selling drugs to children,” District Attorney Thompson said.

“If the conduct in which the offender has engaged is the mere possession of a small amount of marijuana in public, it would not, under most circumstances, warrant saddling that offender with a new criminal conviction and all of its attendant collateral consequences related to employment, education and housing,” the District Attorney said.

“Furthermore, in 2013, this office processed well over 8,500 cases where the top charge was a class ‘B’ misdemeanor marijuana possession. More than two-thirds of those cases ended up being dismissed by judges, most often because the defendant was offered an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal at his or her criminal court arraignment. The processing of these cases exacts a cost on the criminal justice system and takes a toll on the individual. Given that these cases are ultimately — and predictably — dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit,” the District Attorney added.

The news of Thompson’s decision will not mean a policy shift for the New York Police Department. Regardless of prosecution, possessing marijuana remains illegal, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the announcement “will not result in any changes” at the department, suggesting cops will still make the bust.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers proposed the Fairness and Equity Act yesterday, which seeks to implement the spirit of Thompson’s decision statewide. The act aims to address racial disparities in the arrests by slashing the penalty for possession from a misdemeanor to a violation that carries a fine. It would also allow those previously convicted of possession to clear their record.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Kings Plaza Shopping Center (5100 Kings Plaza) will soon be home to the first Brooklyn locations of three national brands: Fossil, Michael Kors and Justice.

The Commercial Observer reports:

Michael Kors, which sells sell apparel, accessories and footwear, leased 4,000 square feet at the borough’s only enclosed mall. Fossil will sell its watches, handbags and jewelry out of a 1,100-square-foot space at the mall and Justice girls clothing store will sell its duds from a 4,200-square-foot space.

Fossil will be the first to open in the spring. Fall will see the arrival of Michael Kors, while Justice is slated for the holiday season.

John Hockenjos, an MTA worker, was charged with reckless endangerment for allegedly try to run over a police officer.

Hockenjos (Source:

Diego Palacios, the police officer kicked off the force after his bogus arrest of a Sheepshead Bay man, may have been sentenced to four days in prison – but he served only one night.

New York Post picked up on our exclusive story last week – without giving credit to Sheepshead Bites – noting that Palacios pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of four days in prison and his resignation from the NYPD. The paper learned that Palacios had to spend only a single night behind bars, though.

Palacios was imprisoned after the Thursday afternoon hearing, in which he admitted to filing a false police report that claimed Sheepshead Bay resident John Hockenjos attempted to run the officer over with his car. That four-day sentence meant that Palacios would have been a free man again on Sunday.

But the sweetheart deal for a man who nearly put an innocent man in jail for seven years got even sweeter for Palacios: state law requires that inmates scheduled for discharge on a weekend should be freed on Friday.

Palacios spent the night in jail, and was freed the next day.

Hockenjos is fuming over the short prison sentence, and afraid for his safety.

“He’s a free man to do whatever he wants,” Hockenjos told Sheepshead Bites last week. “And I have to be in pure fear that there could be retribution. I should not be in this position.”

Video that saved Hockenjos from heading to prison after being falsely accused by Palacios of attempting to run him down in his car.

John Hockenjos, an MTA worker, was charged with reckless endangerment for allegedly try to run over a police officer.

Hockenjos in front of the courthouse. (Source:

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A cop who falsely claimed that a Sheepshead Bay man tried to run him down in a car was sentenced to four days in prison – only one day more than his victim was locked up based on the officer’s bogus charges.

Officer Diego Palacios pleaded guilty at a hearing on Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court in exchange for a sentence of four days and his resignation from the New York City Police Department, the District Attorney’s office told Sheepshead Bites.

The three-day sentence has Palacios’s victim, East 23rd Street resident John Hockenjos, furious – and afraid for his safety.

“This individual spends four days in prison, with no probation, and he gets out of jail today or tomorrow and he’s a free man to do whatever he wants,” Hockenjos told Sheepshead Bites. “And I have to be in pure fear that there could be retribution. I should not be in this position; there should at least be probation.”

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Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia. Click to enlarge

BETWEEN THE LINES: A 68-year-old former Brooklyn resident died of a heart attack a few weeks ago in a New Jersey nursing home, not far from where he lived until his late teens. Though his life was undistinguished, his death prompted a New York Times obituary and op-ed, and 125 Google articles — negligible by today’s standards when compared to the glut of trivia on the rich and famous, yet more than merited for such an unexceptional life.

Few people probably ever heard of George Whitmore, but, due to a progression of regrettable circumstances, he almost certainly never realized the effect he had on the nation’s justice system or New York State’s death penalty law.

Whitmore was a grade-school dropout, whose life was disrupted when he was victimized by malicious detectives and an imperfect judicial system. It was justice run amok long before the New York City Police Department’s questionable and racially-motivated Stop & Frisk policy became the subject of debate. Even so, Whitmore was part of a pattern of veiled racism that existed — and, in some ways, still does — in the dark corners of law enforcement and the halls of the American legal system.

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Sheepshead Bay Mosque

The site of the proposed mosque. Local Muslims painted over where a vandal had previously spray painted "He is dead" after Osama bin Laden's death.

A Kings County Supreme Court judge refused yesterday to issue an injunction against the proposed mosque at 2812 Voorhies Avenue that would have required them to halt construction. But Bay People, the opponents of the mosque, are saying the “fight is far from over.”

The morning hearing was for a preliminary injunction to stop contractors from continuing work on the mosque until neighbors’ zoning challenges have been properly reviewed. The motion was filed in April by lawyers from the main opposition group, Bay People, after they got tired of what they believe to be administrative stonewalling.

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Hanaa Khalil says problems at Kingsborough began when she showed up in head scarf.


So much for those “progressive bastions” known as higher education institutions. Or maybe that title is reserved for four-year schools…

Officials at Kingsborough Community College were ordered to head back to school themselves – for a workplace discrimination class – after illegally firing a chemistry professor because she is Muslim. They’re also going to have to shell out $17,700 in damages and backwages.

The victim, 46-year-old Egyptian immigrant Hanaa Khalil, said the problem began when she first showed up to work after being hired over the phone in March. It took the Department of Physical Sciences secretary, Maureen Sharkey, just a moment’s glance for the job posting to go downhill, according to Khalil.

“She turned her face when she looked at me … she turned her face like she saw something real bad,” Khalil told the Daily News. “It was clear to me it was because they found out that I was a Muslim.”

Khalil said Sharkey continued to treat her “in a dismissive tone,” and she and others hassled her over identification, security and equipment reservations. Sharkey’s behavior was enabled by department head John Mikalopas, who at one point asked Khalil, “Between you and me, do you really have a Social Security number?”

When Khalil turned to the school’s human resource department for help, Mikalopas showed up with two guards, and told her she was fired.

Khalil hopes the school learns the costly lesson.

“I am hoping that I will be the last one to go through this at this school,” she told the Daily News.

Source: I Nancy via Flickr

Eleven people have been arrested in an alleged fraud ring in which 38 day care centers collected $18 million in public funds since 2007, with several of the day cares located in Sheepshead Bay.

In all, four day care operators and seven city workers were charged with conspiring to pay or receive bribes; all but one were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the mail fraud conspiracy charge, and a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison on the bribery conspiracy charge, as well as fines of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

The complaint charges that a ring of 38 day care operators known as “The Congregation” paid bribes to city workers from three city agencies: the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Human Resources Administration and the Administration for Children’s Services.

The Congregation, allegedly controlled by Sheepshead Bay resident Liudmila Umarov, was exploiting the city’s Day Care Subsidy Program, which covers the costs of care for children from low-income families so that parents can obtain jobs. Umarov and her associates – Lyudmila Grushko, Yana Krugly and Rimma Volovnick – paid city workers for names and social security numbers of children who qualified for the program, and began billing the city for care they were not providing. Bribes were also paid to inspectors to overlook infractions, which included unqualified staff, lack of background checks, and not enough space per child. In at least one instance, hard alcohol was found in the refrigerator next to student lunches.

Among the Sheepshead Bay area day cares named in the complaint are: Paragon II Day Care, Inc., Learning Center Paragon, Amazing World Day Care Center, Banner Learning Center, Inc., and Sesame Street LMN Day Care. All of these centers are on Banner Avenue, just off Coney Island Avenue, though the full reach of the ring went as far as Staten Island.

Investigators hinted that more day care centers may be involved, and that the investigation will burrow further into this “massive fraud and bribery scheme.”

“We were concerned about the potential safety risk associated with letting this type of fraud go on,” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement yesterday. “It is fair to say that today’s events mark the end of just the first chapter in a very active and ongoing investigation.”

View the Justice Department’s criminal complaint.
The New York Times]


NYPD photo of Snyder // Courtesy of

A reader sent me the following message last week:

My sister, her friend my next door neighbor and me all had a strange thing happen.  Last Saturday (6/19) a man knocked on my apartment door, claimed to live down the hall and asked for money for a copayment of $36 to get medicine for his daughter…I told him no…he then knocked on the door of my neighbor claimed he was a cousin of a third neighbor and asked her for $100.  This passed Wed. the same guy knocked on my sister’s door (she lives 1/2 mile from me).  She told me that a guy with the same description knocked on the door of a friend on Friday (6/18) night.  Just thought  the word should go out.

That reader lives on East 28th Street and Voorhies Avenue, and her sister on Knapp Street and Avenue X – so it looks like he might be hitting up co-ops on the eastern side of Sheepshead Bay.

If the story wasn’t weird enough, the next day another reader sent me a link to a story from a Staten Island newspaper. She lives in the Kings Bay co-ops; the same area as the other incidents. She wrote that the co-op manager slipped photocopies under residents’ doors.

Well, I took the story and the photo (above) and ran it past our original reader, who confirmed it was the man that came to her door.

The guy, Ronald Snyder, is a scam artist awaiting sentencing for doing out in S.I. exactly what he’s now doing in BK. Here’s an excerpt from the Staten Island story:

Keep reading to see how weird this story gets.

Courtesy of wallyg via Flickr

Seventeen men were indicted and a dozen medical supply companies were raided last week for their alleged involvement in a health care scam that netted more than $3 million for the conspirators. Most of those involved hailed from the Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend and Midwood neighborhoods.

According to, federal authorities say the defendants submitted false invoices to insurances companies for medical equipment with “payments that were well in excess of the price they initially paid through their individual retail medical supply companies.” Paybacks were given in checks issues to the wholesale companies, and the checks were cashed at check-cashing stores and delivered to the defendants.

Each of the 17 defendants could face up to 20 years in prison.

“The type of health care fraud and money laundering scheme these individuals allegedly constructed and engaged in affects all Americans and directly impacts America’s health care system,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, which conducted the investigation with the United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.

Keep reading for a list of those involved.

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